Darwin's Nightmare (2004)

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Released 29-Mar-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Guerilla: The Taking Of Patty Hearst, The Take, McLibel
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 105:33 (Case: 111)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Hubert Sauper
Celluloid Dreams
Madman Entertainment
Starring Hubert Sauper
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I like a good, accurate title for a film and "nightmare" hits the nail right on the head when attempting to describe the situation documented in Darwin's Nightmare. Documenting the unseen and unpleasant side of globalization, Hubert Sauper's deeply affecting film is a timely and shaking wake-up call.

    In the 1950s, Nile perch was released into Africa's Lake Victoria, the world's second largest lake. The new fish thrived and are now a global export commodity, snapped up largely by an insatiable European market. Sadly though, the fishermen working the lake see very little income from the perch and despite booming trade the locals live in poverty and squalor. Sauper spent four years filming the villagers of Mwanza, in Tanzania. As foreign companies send millions of tons of fish out of the country, the villagers (who can't afford the fish any more) struggle to survive. We see some working through piles of fish heads and offcuts, attempting to salvage anything edible, some turning to prostitution to entertain the fishermen and foreign pilots, while a security guard longs for war: you get better pay in the army. In an unstable political climate, he just might get his wish. As Sauper films he reveals evidence that the planes flying in (supposedly empty) to take away tons of fish are likely importing weaponry and ammunition.

    The Tanzanian Nile perch industry is not only an economic disaster: the non-native fish has wreaked almost irreparable environmental damage on the lake. The large predator has decimated native fish populations and the massive reduction in fish numbers has allowed increased vegetation and algae to deoxygenate the lake, threatening to undermine any small benefits the Nile perch has brought.

    Darwin's Nightmare is heart-breaking and appalling and Sauper doesn't pull any punches filming Mwanza's poverty. He does, however, manage to capture the beauty and pride of the villagers and even some moments of happiness: it is these moments that raise the film well above Moore-style polemics to beautiful and affecting filmmaking. Darwin's Nightmare has a message and it may even motivate you to do something to alleviate world poverty. Sauper never preaches though, and lets his subjects speak for themselves. The film is all the better for it. Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is good. It's not often, though, that Madman produce non-16x9 enhanced widescreen transfers, but that's what we get here: a letterboxed 1.78:1 transfer (the original aspect ratio is 1.85:1).

    The film was shot on digital video. Sharpness is excellent in well lit scenes, but shadow suffers from very visible grain. Night scenes in particular are heavily grainy. Colours are well rendered and life like.

    MPEG artefacts are limited to some relatively mild posterization and colour banding. Sharp lines show some aliasing. Naturally, there are no film artefacts unless you count dirt on the camera lens.

    Subtitles are accurate and clarify some of the poor English. They are in a yellow font. The layer change occurs at 56:33.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is also satisfactory. The single Dolby Digital 2.0 track is surround encoded.

    Dialogue is clear and audible. The audio sounds live (as it should) and like home video sound. It doesn't sound terrible at all: just don't expect the usual rich audio of a feature film. Audio sync is accurate.

    The audio is quite active when decoded in surround. The fronts show good directional effects and the rears support the music, crowd and factory noises. It's immersive in a way, but its quality is limiting. There's nothing for the subwoofer to do.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

Theatrical Trailer



    Piracy Ad (0:31); Guerilla; The Taking of Patty Hearst (2:12); The Take (1:48); McLibel (3:01).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Darwin's Nightmare is currently unavailable in Region 1.


    Darwin's Nightmare is both thought provoking as a documentary and an excellent piece of filmmaking in its own right.

    Video is very good, although not 16x9 enhanced.

    Audio is also very good.

    Extras consist only of trailers. The documentary speaks for itself, though, and added commentary might detract from the experience.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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